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Families speak out over Richmond group home closure

The NDP is calling on the government to immediately suspend the closure of group homes—including one pending closure on Williams Road—until “adequate consultation” with families takes place.

“The families themselves would be willing and able to offer assistance to figure out ways to manage costs. But that option has been taken away by government...” said Nicholas Simons, the NDP’s critic for Community Living B.C.

Simons joined with family members of adults with developmental disabilities at a press conference Monday in Vancouver to draw attention to funding cuts to the provincial Crown corporation.

As many as 63 group homes have been closed since 2009, said Simons, some due to attrition, but others part of a “pretty dedicated campaign” by government to reduce group home services.

“It really has a huge impact on these adults,” he said. “The government promised they wouldn’t do exactly what they’re doing.”

Family members of residents who live in the Williams Road group home haven’t been told when the home will close, but have been told to apply for a home-share—where the adult shares a home with someone who is trained to support the individual.

“They go from a group home where they do activities together...in a co-ordinated way with 24-hour care because of their needs, to living in a home with a family who may or may not have the skills. That’s the unknown,” said Simons.

At Monday’s press conference, an elderly woman spoke, telling reporters she’s worried what will happen to her 46-year-old son who has Down syndrome, and has lived at the Williams Road home for many years.

“This is causing her to be very very stressed about what will happen when she’s gone and there won’t be people to advocate for her son,” said Simons. “What she’s worried about is her son will not be provided with the kind of care that he needs.”

A couple representing their daughter also spoke of their fear for their disabled adult daughter’s future care. “Their daughter is stable, and happy and functioning and included in the community where she is. Why mess with a good thing for a few bucks?”

But Paul Sibley, Community Living B.C.’s director of regional operations for Vancouver Coastal, said since the decision to move people with developmental disabilities out of institutions and into group homes, new ways of supporting these individuals have been found.

“We support people in all kinds of different ways now,” he said. “We’re constantly looking at new ways to support people and as we’ve learned them, we want to make sure people are being matched up with those supports in a way that’s appropriate to their disability-related need.”

That, said Sibley, is what’s happening at its Williams Road group home, where the service provider believes the four residents could be supported in a different way.

Sibley said Community Living B.C. supports 13,600 people in B.C., and just 2,400 live in group homes. The rest live in other arrangements—with their families, in their own homes or in home-share arrangements.

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